Barry Rohan

20 years at the Free Press

I am so proud to be associated with this group of people. It totally overshadows anything I have ever done in my life or, I am sure, ever will. I did not ever consider crossing the line, for many layers of reasons I still do not entirely understand. At least one of them has to do with the bunch of stand-up guys I grew up with in a mill town in Wisconsin. They are still my friends and I could never face them again in this life or the next as a line-crosser. Then, of course, there was my own good opinion of myself, the need to remake myself somehow in some way that I can no longer at my age. The fact is at the moment of the strike I was more or less totally absorbed in the business of making innumerable contacts — and friends — outside the newspaper to produce the kind of feature stories I like to write. I have never been a good member of any organization, rarely attended union meetings and so forth. In recent years, almost unbeknownst to myself, as I grew older in my job and younger people came into the business department, I found myself somewhat marooned on a little island populated by three or four other people over 55 at the paper (who ultimately crossed). I guess, absent the strike, I was headed toward some kind of benign retirement at the Free Press three or four years hence, essentially a stranger to the organization and my colleagues. At the end, there would have been no reward but coffee and cake in Room 100 with a bunch of professional acquaintances. (As usual at company retirement parties, many of them probably would have shown up just for the food.) This strike has given me many new and much more intense friendships. Knowing full well the pain that so many people have suffered, I could never have chosen this thing. But now that it has come my way, it has been the best thing that ever happened to me. It has allowed me to discover my true community and rediscover my humanity.

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